|New task force stands up to combat contract corruption|
KABUL, Afghanistan - In the wake of a newly released survey by the non-profit watchdog group Integrity Watch Afghanistan stating that corruption has doubled in three years since 2006, United States Forces - Afghanistan has established its own answer to fight corruption — Task Force 2010.
Headed by Rear Adm. Kathleen Dussault, Task Force 2010 is charged with ensuring the money spent by the coalition is delivering the intended purpose and that contract efforts are linked to implementing the counterinsurgency strategy effectively.
“To better understand the impact of contracting, especially the flow of contracting dollars at the sub-contractor level, Task Force 2010 has been created,” ISAF Spokesman German Brig. Gen. Joseph Blotz, ISAF Spokesman said. “This is a task force of more than 20 individuals from a variety of backgrounds and will include experts in forensic auditing and criminal investigation as well as contracting.”
The Task Force 2010 commander has an in depth knowledge and tons of recent contracting experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dussault has extensive contracting and command experience. She served as the commander of the Joint Contracting Command Iraq/Afghanistan, headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq, with 18 regional offices throughout both theaters.
Dussault has also served as the U.S. Navy’s senior procurement officer.
Dussault said, “The purpose of Task Force 2010, is not just to look into contracting processes and procedures but hoe the U.S. provides money for projects in Afghanistan.”
The amount of money being spent in Afghanistan has tripled since 2008, Dussault said.
The international team will include experts in forensic auditing, criminal investigation, intelligence as well as contracting.
The task force of 22 military members and civilians will bring a three pronged attack to combat corruption.
First, they will conduct extensive investigations and gather intelligence.
“It is time to look at how we’re spending the money and is it making the changes we want,” Dussault said.
Second, Task Force 2010 will conduct intensive forensic auditing on contracts and contractors.
The task force will also have significant reach back capability to the Joint Staff and other U.S. government agencies as well as gathering evidence for Afghan and U.S. prosecutors to bring anti-corruption cases here and in the U.S.
The task force, which was just established three weeks ago, wants to increase transparency for the money being spent here on Afghan projects.
A lack of transparency goes right to the heart of the issue, Dussault said.
Some contractors would hire a subcontractor and then they would hire a subcontractor, who would then hire another subcontractor.
“It becomes very confusing as to who of those is there to do the work,” Dussault said. “We are starting to include in all of our contracts who the subcontractors will be in writing [at the beginning of the contract this well be provided as one main contractor will be held responsible].”
Another area Task Force 2010 will work on is putting a greater emphasis on the ‘Afghan First’ program, which was passed by the U.S. congress several years ago.
The Afghan First Policy says that U.S. government procurement of contracted work and services should be offered to Afghan companies first. If they cannot provide the services then ISAF should look at ways to grow the capabilities and infrastructure needed to help the Afghans build capacity.
“Contract should be given to Afghan contractors first,” Dussault said. “We understand that all of the contracting in Afghanistan has a powerful effect, she added.”
By engaging with local businesses the U.S. can broaden Afghan support and help local businesses grow, gain experience and generate jobs in the industrial, commercial and agriculture sectors, according an Afghan First policy statement.
“We want the money to flow across a greater expanse,” Dussault said. “We need to analyze it [the money] and make sure we have the proper controls in place.”
The contracting issues need to be nipped in the bud at the very beginning of the contracting process, Dussault explained.
Task Force 2010 contains members of the International Contracting Corruption Task Force. They are responsible for investigating and gathering evidence and then bringing it to the Afghan government for prosecution [of] the bad actors, the corrupt Afghan contractors, she said. They will provide the same service to help U.S. prosecutors bring U.S. companies to U.S. courts.
“If a contractor hires a subcontractor to for example protect transport [of goods], this contractor is subject to the task force,” Blotz said. “We are asking the government of Afghanistan to properly register these companies. Once, they are registered this starts a greater degree of transparency.”
We need to build up security where we don’t have as many private security contractors in the future,” Blotz said. This is the reason ISAF has put Afghan security forces as the priority.